Recent political history is riddled with scandal-tainted politicians who quickly resigned rather than struggle to survive. Rob Ford, who finally admitted to doing crack earlier today, is not stepping down. It’s the first smart decision he’s made since … maybe forever.
In a formal, prepared statement this afternoon — unlike his bombshell presser earlier today, Ford stood behind a podium and everything, for extra seriousness — a sullen and slow-talking Ford apologized ad nauseam, sought forgiveness, and vowed to plow ahead on his mission to save taxpayers money. “We live in a democracy,” Ford declared, “and on October 27 of 2014, I want the people of this great city to decide whether they want Rob Ford to be their mayor.”
It would not be hard to argue that Ford’s continued presence in the mayor’s office is a terrible thing for Toronto. A man with obvious substance abuse problems, who has committed God knows how many illegal offenses while in office and appears to be a compulsive liar, should probably not be running the largest city in Canada. Hell, he shouldn’t be running the largest Zamboni in Canada (“Freak Zamboni Accident Injures Dozens, Somehow”). But Ford is looking out for Ford. And politicians can survive these scandals, and rebound completely, if they can bear the shame and pressure of the initial onslaught.
Bill Clinton never resigned after having an affair with a 22-year-old intern in the White House. He served out the rest of his term and is now one of the nation’s more popular elder statesmen. Mark Sanford didn’t resign after hiking the ol’ Appalachian trail (sex) with his Argentine mistress, and managed to not only serve out his term but win election as a congressman. Louisiana senator David Vitter was caught in a prostitution scandal in 2007, didn’t resign, and was reelected by a 19-point margin three years later.
Lord knows whether Ford has the capacity to ensure that “these mistakes will never, ever, ever, happen again,” as he promised in his statement today, or even whether he can keep himself out of prison as this story continues to unfold. But there is very little incentive for him to resign. Incredibly, Ford’s approval rating went up last week after the police announced that they had a video of him smoking crack. Given a year’s separation from this scandal, could Ford actually win reelection, despite all the crack and the drinking and the lies? Canadian political observers believe he could. It seems crazy, but so was electing him in the first place.